Tornado stave off Mustangs in a shootout, 5-4
Both the Texas Tornado and New Mexico Mustangs scored four straight goals on Saturday, and although the Tornado blew a four-goal lead, they eventually prevailed in a shootout by a score of 5-4. Reid Mimmack was the Tornado goaltender for the second straight night, and made 29 saves to pick up his sixth victory of the season.
The Tornado have had some trouble scoring recently, especially in the first period, but netted three goals in the opening frame. Justin Greenberg got the first one after Jack Prince took a pair of shots, both of which were stopped by New Mexico goaltender Randy Graham. The rebound on Prince’s second shot went up in the air, and was batted in by Greenberg for the at 7:31 of the first period to give Texas a 1-0 lead.
The Tornado struck again just over two minutes later after Graham, who made 44 saves last night, made a rare mistake. The puck was dumped the puck in behind the net, where Graham tried to play it. Instead, he mishandled it and lost control to Skyler Spiller. Spiller easily found Conner Burton, who tapped it into the gaping net to give the Tornado a 2-0 lead.
Four minutes later, Texas made it a 3-0 lead, converting on the power-play after struggling with the man advantage the night before. Jack Prince skated down the right wing and behind the net, then slowly moved to the opposite corner. Instead of coming out in front, Prince found some daylight between the post and Graham’s pads, beating him from behind the goal line. The goal was Prince’s 12th of the season, good for the team lead. That would spell the end of the night for Graham, who was replaced in between the pipes by Nick Heimer.
The Tornado picked up right where they left off as the second period got underway and scored early on to extend their advantage to four goals. Jake Strzalkowski, who played with the Mustangs earlier this season, took a shot from the blue line that went through traffic and past Heimer for the goal, Strzalkowski’s first of the season.
But New Mexico answered back. First, it was Charles Baldwin, who scored for the second time in as many games. With the Mustangs on a power-play, Baldwin took a faceoff in his own zone and won control of the puck. He proceeded to skate the length of the ice, blowing by the Tornado defense on his way to a breakaway against Mimmack. As he approached the net, Baldwin moved the puck to his forehand and slipped it underneath Mimmack’s pads to make it a 4-1 game.
Later in the period, Jayson Angus and Adam Chapie both unleashed wrist shots from identical spots at the right circle, both of which beat Mimmack on the high-glove side. Angus’ goal cut the Tornado lead to two, while Chapie’s came with just 11 seconds remaining in the period and made it a 4-3 game with the third period looming.
The score remained 4-3 throughout the first 19 minutes of the third period, but New Mexico pulled Heimer in favor of the extra attacker, a decision which ended up paying dividends. Cody Walsh sent it down the boards and Mimmack came out of his net to play it. The puck took a carom off the stanchion behind the net and ricocheted back towards the slot, where Evan Johnston was waiting to tap it into the open goal to tie the game at 4.
That forced overtime, making it the 11th time in 27 games this season the Tornado have played in a game that needed extra time. The overtime period proved fruitless for both teams and led to a shootout. Through four rounds, Prince and Jordan Greenberg had scored for Texas while Johnston and Chapie each put one in for New Mexico. Justin Greenberg was the first shooter of the fifth round and beat Heimer. Marcus Nordland was the last hope for the Mustangs but shot it high and wide as the Tornado escaped from Santa Ana Star Center with the victory.
The Tornado will return to Dr Pepper Arena for a pair of games against Corpus Christi next week, with the opening game of the weekend series coming on Friday, December 9th at 7:30 p.m.